Engage in Intellectual Combat

One of the joys (or maybe lack thereof) of traveling is the wide array of conversations you overhear at airports and in airplanes. Given we’re a captive audience in an airport Starbucks line or sitting middle seat on a three hour flight, the conversations within earshot are plentiful and sometimes, very colorful.

As I crammed into the isle seat of the CRJ, preparing for a quick 38 minute flight home, I got to overhear one such conversation. The two guys in front of me were from competing companies. Both companies supply equipment to the agricultural and construction sectors. Both are harnessing technology to further automate repeatable processes. And, both of these guys were engineers.

The whole flight they debated back and forth about topics ranging from the overall design process to handling of governmental regulations of the U.S. as well as other countries. Not at any point did their voices raise or were disrespectful to one another. They respectfully listened and responded. There was even a few “well I can’t disagree with you there!” comments.

After we landed the guys stood up and shook hands. As they did, one said to the other, “I haven’t had this level of Intellectual Combat in quite awhile.”

“Intellectual Combat.” Separate them, and they don’t seem to go together.

  • Intellectual – showing reasoning and understanding; an intelligent person
  • Combat – fighting, to take action against someone or something

I’ve written before we all need that “Yeah, But” person. The “Yeah, But” person questions you to make sure you’ve thought through the different angles.

The Intellectual Combat person will actively engage in debate. Instead of asking questions and you think through different scenarios, they’ll tell you why you may not be right and their ideas. From there, you’re engaged in intellectual combat, assuming it stays civil (no throwing fists people!).

For those of you in the IT world, I’ll give you an example; put 2 enterprise architects in a room and tell them they need to agree on something. I’ve seen some really good intellectual combats there! They’ll debate and provide supporting information why. Eventually, they agree or I’ve had to bring in a 3rd party to help get a decision made. I’ve seen similar with building architects and designers.

Intellectual Combat. Though it sounds combative and maybe even a little scary, it’s nothing more than a great debate where people challenge each other. Don’t shy away. Find someone who’s willing to engage in it and don’t take their comments personally. It’s just a good round of Intellectual Combat!

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